One of the problems with the Samsung Galaxy Beam and its anticipated successors is that the projector and batteries that need to go along with it make the phone a bit of a brick.  You carry a phone with you every day and trying to sell a device that double the thickness and weight for a function (projecting) that you only use on rare occasions is tough.

But, with new DLP and LED technology that is reducing the battery drain and a bigger form factor (read: tablets) you can almost miss the additional weight and size required to add a projector to a portable device.  TI gave me a SmartDevices U7 projector-tablet to play around with for a few months to see how I liked the form factor.

Taking it out of the box, it feels like a more dense Nexus 7. While the form factor is largely the same, this SmartDevices tablet contains a 35 Lumen DLP projector that comes out of one of the sides of the tablet. That’s up for 15 Lumens on the Samsung Beam and a very noticeable improvement. While the beam requires a lowering of the lights, this projects to the 50-inch size in well-lit rooms. We’re not talking real projector quality but certainly viewable…

At 360grams, it is 20 grams heavier than the Nexus 7 but still lighter than the similar sized Nook and Kindle. All the extra weight is batteries save for a few lenses and focus buttons on the side. The screen isn’t great and prone to fingerprints and even a hairline crack that happened while I wasn’t looking (I think?).

While the Android software overall was pretty poor on this demo device and the hardware not much to write home about, the projector was quite nice and lasted for about 2 hours before the battery died. After the battery does die, you’ll need around a half hour of charge to even power up the device even with a cable in.

So it isn’t perfect. Like I said, the Android 4.1 experience also leaves much to be desired. Often buttons go missing. Netflix crashes. Orientation adjustments on the 1024×600 display is bad.

But once you get the projector going, it is quite nice. The 35 lumens is an 854×480 native projector which won’t blow socks off anyone and it will interpolated videos up to 1080P in size. You can have it mirror the tablet display too.

My takeaway on this is this is a proof of concept. For a few extra dollars and not much sacrifice in the way of size and weight, tablet makers can add the ability to project a 50-inch display. Sure, you won’t use it every day, but it might be a differentiator in the years ahead.